Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Brent's Guest Post

This is just a quick guest post by Jennifer's spouse Brent. Some of you may know that Jen has preached three times for a Church of Christ in New York State over the past few months. I have encouraged her to make the sermons available, because I think some of you may have an interest in reading them. Though I'm biased, I think they are deeply insightful and characteristically articulate. Since they are longer than typical blog-length and we don't want to overwhelm her regular posts, we've put them at another blog entitled rude sermons (see the permanent link on the right). I've already posted her most recent sermon and I'll post the earlier two shortly along with any others see preaches from here on out. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

birthday

What an amazing day this has been. I thought it wouldn't be all that remarkable, and on the surface, maybe it wasn't. But this morning I got calls from Atlanta, TN, and local friends, messages from WA, AR & Honduras, and a surprise plate of brownies from the cool Lutherans next door & the other Jen, complete with singing and a candle. Wow! Maybe there are those among you, imaginary and alien included, whose birthdays are always full of candles and singing and lots of raucous celebrating. But my family is pretty low-key about things like birthdays, and on top of that, for a good long while in my early 20's birthdays took a drastic turns for the worse...it may have been as many as 5 straight years when my birthday probably rated as the worst day of my year, for various reasons.

So turning 29 is good. The celebrating hasn't been raucous or anything, but the cool thing is, lots of people seem to have remembered, even people who aren't related to me or married to me. That's just really nice. And despite the requisite grousing about getting old, I'm really happy about it. I like being at an age where people accept you as a grown-up. I think I've been ready for this since I was about six, actually.

Oh, and I have such an awesome spouse. (I am saying spouse instead of husband because Brent has told me this is the way people do it around here, apparently.) I mentioned in a cutesy random comment on someone else's blog that an iPod would make a really nifty gift for my birthday (then a month away). And sure enough, friends, now I have one. Isn't that seriously amazing? I am very happy about this. Not just because I now have a cute little piece of technology but also because Brent has once again proved beyond all possible doubt that he is the most romantic and thoughtful guy in the whole wide world. Maybe not the whole universe, but perhaps our new alien friends can comment on that.

Okay, I can feel myself sounding actually bubbly so in the interest of dignity I will sign off. But thanks to everyone who made this an awesome day. I love you all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

greet our new foreign friends

Hello! Hola! Ni hao! Tag! Buon giorno! Zdrastya! Everyone, say hello to our new friends. This blog is now being beamed into space along with the 5:00 news and I Love Lucy. If you too would like to chit chat with our alien friends out there then visit http://www.bloginspace.com/ and sign yourself up. Many many thanks to Greg at kendallball.net for this blog upgrade. Now my blog audience is not just an elite few and a host of imagined passers by...but an elite few plus my imaginary friends plus my intergalactic neighbors. That is so much better!

By the way, new alien friends, please know that the movie reviewed in the last post was a crazy fictional scenario dreamed up by an obviously lonely British man with too much time on his hands.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

War of the Worlds


note: this actually was over a week ago but this cute little baby distracted me and I forgot to post this.

Brent took me to the movies last night. It's always an interesting cultural experience to go to an actual theater. The theater in Hamilton is packed full of teeny-boppers displaying bellybuttons, tight ass jeans and attitude. They glare at you like you're invading their personal playground, which I guess we are. At nearly 30, we're as old fogey as you get.

So, the movie was actually pretty good. I have to say, it was by far the most faithful movie rendition of any sci-fi book I've ever read. If all science fiction movies were done that faithfully, maybe the majority of them wouldn't suck like they almost always do. But even better, the changes that were made to the script were generally good ones. Instead of a fussy British academic narrating the tale of his mostly solitary adventure, we have a New Jersey deadbeat dad attempting to return his kids to the safety of his ex-wife's parents' place in Boston. It worked, I think. They changed the aliens a bit, too; although they did portray them as dependent on mechanism, which is faithful to the book, they gave them fully developed bodies rather than simply being brains operating the machinery. This I feel neutral about. Other than that, the structure of the story remains intact, even the ending. I am especially happy about this, as I'm sure it would have been very tempting to play up the interstellar war thing and have America defeat the brainy bastards with our indomitable spirit and powerful weaponry. But, like the book, there's no "war" in War of the Worlds. Right as it looks like humanity has come upon its certain doom, the aliens mysteriously start to croak and the invasion falls apart. Earth's bacteria prove fatal to the alien invaders and, through no merit or effort of its own, humanity is saved from annihilation by the ecosystem.

One thing I found curious was that Tim Robbins' character carried over none of the religious hysteria displayed by the original character in the book. It would have been, I think, a very effective platform from which to make a statement on religious apocalypticism, and I am unsure why this road wasn't taken. It certainly would have added interest to the character and provided an opportunity for thought-provoking dialogue. As it is, Robbins is just a garden-variety kook, perhaps with a hint of incipient pedophilia setting in (there's a disturbing conversation between Robbins' character and Cruise's character's daughter). But, maybe that's just my preoccupation with all things theological kicking in again...I forget that I'm not normal.

So, that's it. Not a full review, certainly, but hopefully enough that those of you who, like me, have seen way too many bad movies made out of really wonderful science fiction novels and short stories will find it in you to hope once again that perhaps this time, it will be good. This time, I think, you'll find a movie worth watching.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

back in NJ

Well. Mount Rainier does exist after all. We got to see it on the drive to the airport as we were leaving. Here's what it looks like as you peer through the back window of a moving vehicle:


But Mt. Rainier, impressive though it is, was not the main attraction of our little jaunt to WA. Nor, wonderful though they be, were my folks. Nope. We went to see my sister and her new little baby Levi (heavily featured, by the way, in the archives of this blog), who are visiting my parents for a few weeks. Haven't seen Ally since she got married, over two years ago, and of course, since Levi didn't really exist until a few months ago, hadn't ever seen him. So mostly we just stayed in the house and made ridiculous faces at this incredibly good natured kid and competed for the privilege of holding him. Nothing like a new baby to dissolve the dignity of all grown-up persons in the vicinity. We were shameless.

I knitted 3 baby booties and 2 hats over the week. That is pretty much my main accomplishment. Why 3 booties? Well, the first one was experimental, and of course too small. Why 2 hats? Well, the first one was of course too small. Ally will take that one home to Honduras for Sol to use on her Cabbage Patch doll. Yes, Cabbage Patch. I have realized the awful truth that, not being a mother myself and having not babysat since high school, I have no idea of the actual dimensions of live babies. And while Internet knitting patterns are free, a big perk, they apparently really aren't that reliable in terms of sizing. I have the distinct and awful impression that basically everything I've knitted for every baby I've ever knit for (um, this is two babies so far) has been way too small. So, anyhow, once I finally finished the second pair of booties, which are actually too big (luckily time will rectify this problem), I was absurdly proud. I hope I feel this good about defending the dissertation. Somehow I doubt it.

But just so you can see what a cute kid this is, and what a witty little knitter I am, here you go:

Now, isn't that an awesome hat?

So, all in all, it was a great week, really restful. I didn't really get a lot of reading done, although I did finish a short biography of Bonhoeffer that was really interesting: A Spoke in the Wheel by Renate Wind. And I finished the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics but I didn't get started on Critique of Pure Reason OR Strawson's Bounds of Sense. I meant to, really I did, but there was this baby to play with all the time. Really, it's all his fault.

It's nice to be back home though. I missed the cat, and she apparently really missed us. She's developed a weird meow while we were away, like a smoker's meow or something. I'm hoping it's not because she yowled in loneliness so much this week that she's gone completely hoarse. Overall though I prefer my kitty's codependent affection to the sulk routine some cats give you when you get home from a trip.

Well, that's it. I know this wasn't an exciting or thoughtful post but the pictures oughta make up for it, eh? Maybe after I get over the dopiness of the whole red-eye flight back and the losing of the luggage (again!) my brain will start working again. There won't be any more cute little babies to distract me from thinking my usual lofty thoughts. My loss, your gain.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

strangers on trains

Since I relayed that very dismal train conversation I was inadvertently party to this past Sunday, I thought I would relate another little train vignette from the week before. This time I was by myself, and I had managed to get to Penn Station in time to catch the 8:03 express rather than the 8:14 local, which I was very happy about. But it turns out that the 8:03 express train to Trenton is very popular train indeed on Sunday nights, and this particular night it was packed. Not China-crowded or even Italy-crowded, but, you know, American sensibilities regarding personal space were being infringed upon everywhere you looked. So I snagged a seat fairly easily, being by myself, and was settled in before the crowds hit my train car, placidly ignoring the frantic and ruthless competition for seats by the hapless folk around me, reading Catherine of Siena's _Dialogue_. Pretty soon, the seat next to me is taken by a dark-haired woman about my age, whose companion, an extremely large woman carrying a fairly large (though apparently not heavy) box, sat in the aisle on the box. She was sporting a sticker on her blouse that said "Go Queer" and from the chatter, I think they had just come from a march of some sort. Anyway, pretty soon they noticed that I was reading a medieval woman mystic and, whoosh!, the conversation begins. Women's bodies, mystical experiences, religious experiences, religion, science, our respective religious upbringings and rebellions, and where we find ourselves now. It turns out that these two fascinating women are Unitarian Universalist, which I know next to nothing about, because while they rejected religious dogmatism, they didn't at all reject spirituality. It wasn't a deep conversation, but one of those very wide conversations of the sort you can really only have with strangers on trains.

It was relaxing to me. I'm sure that had we talked longer we'd've found things to disagree about, and perhaps the momentary camaraderie (thanks to Dr. Burks for making it impossible to type this word without flashbacks to Harding chapel) would have ended. But it was pretty liberating to discuss opinions and experiences candidly without worrying about how your audience will react to them. I can't talk to members of my own tradition like that. Which means the question we should all be asking of ourselves right now is, why the hell not?

It could be my problem. I've admitted before on this blog that part of its raison d'etre is practice finding my voice--despite the bravado of the title I'm not at all comfortable with actually being rude. I think over the last couple months I've achieved rudeness a few times, and so I think I'm making progress. But still: progress in the blogosphere doesn't easily translate into boldness in the personal sphere. So it could be my problem. I find myself wrapped up in anticipating who will think what and say what and what they will then think of me after they know what I really think about whatever. It's paralyzing.

But it could also be "their" problem. Why am I so paranoid about how what I say or think will be received? Why is contemplating that an occasion of dread? Quite possibly because it's something legitimately dreaded, because "they" can be quite dreadful. But "they" is also the "we" that, for better or worse, I have cast my lot with...so, in all honesty, it comes back to being my problem, doesn't it?

Well, I'm sure this little dilemma will come up again sometime. In the meantime, here's a bit of wisdom from my mother: "Jesus told us to be salt, not sugar." Amen. Preach it, Ma!

Monday, July 04, 2005

sitting in a lab

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July 4

Well, I'm sitting in a computer lab and, quite frankly, find it depressing. So don't expect any profundity. Coffee is not at hand, in fact is forbidden, and that is a prerequisite for composition of any sort for this proud American.

I'm in one of those anonymous bad moods, the kind where there's no apparent cause--it's just there, sitting gloomy and dusty and heavy on your shoulders and you can't shake it off. If it gets any worse, it's gonna sprout a head and limbs like those horrible old stoles people wore back in the Whenevers, you know, back when it was considered attractive to parade around with dead things that clearly were once alive on your shoulders. Oh, no, I don't mean like Neanderthals or cavemen or trogladytes. I mean like when it was cool to wear your dead animal with heels and chic purse. And if it gets any worse than that, it'll probably start growling. The mood, I mean. But clearly this metaphor has gotten way out of hand. As has the mood.

Maybe it's because I sat on a train last night on the way home from fairly intense theological discussion at church (yes, you read that sentence right: theological discussion at church, and I meant it) and listened to a quartet of loudmouths declaim the superficial and ridiculous about everything from how much wine it takes to get them drunk to how dumb PhD's are. Brent and I were 2 seats away from them and I could hear their conversation better than I could the woman sitting next to me on her cell phone. It occurred to me as I listened--at that volume I think eavesdropping becomes an obsolete concept--that it would be absolute hell to be trapped in a body that, no matter how hard you tried, only expressed the dumbest thoughts in the high school vernacular you never grew out of. These people seemed okay with it, though. They were 6 years older than me. I know this because they spent 5 minutes discussing how much better it is to have been born in 1970 than '69 (complete with reference to that song by whoever it was) because they can legitimately claim to be children of the 70's. But then they started on church. These laudable Ambassadors for Christ proceeded to blast everything I hold sacred by talking about it in the same inane and foolish way they talked about everything else--loudly, carelessly, irreverently, confidently, and self-servingly.

If there's anything that shakes my faith, and I say this very, very seriously, this is it. If this is Christianity, then this rotten boat full of holes is going down. By the time we all disembarked at Princeton Junction, I felt physically ill.

I really wanted to say something snide and confrontational as I walked past them--something like, "y'all have been real Ambassadors for Christ tonight. Keep it up." But I knew they wouldn't get it. They would pat themselves on the back. Maybe invite me to a Bible study.

So maybe that's it. Or maybe 'cause it's the Fourth of July and I don't find anything to celebrate. We're going to our NZ friends' place later and I plan to wear the KGB shirt the K's gave me a couple years ago. I don't want to spend the day complaining. But I don't want to celebrate, either. What is there to celebrate?

Yesterday on the TV I heard it asserted that we should honor the soldiers who have died because Jesus said, "there is no love greater than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Well, I have to end the tirade because there are pasta salads to prepare and I should probably shower before showing up for the party. Perhaps I will find myself in a better mood at the end of all of this, but somehow I doubt it.